New to Blu-ray/DVD: Eye In the Sky



Editor’s Notes: Eye In the Sky will be released on its respective home video format on June 28th.

Eye In the Sky (Universal Home Entertainment) explores the military, legal, political, and moral factors that must be considered in drone warfare, a type of engagement carried out from bunkers and conference rooms through inter-communication, video screens, and cleverly disguised spy cameras. Armed, airborne drones make it possible to inflict pinpointed, devastating destruction without ever coming face to face with the enemy. No matter how precisely targeted a drone strike may be, collateral damage is always a possibility.

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 9.02.42 AM

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is a UK-based military officer in command of a top-secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intelligence, Powell discovers that the targets are in a safe house in the middle of a small village where they are preparing for a suicide bombing that could kill many people and severely injure many more, and the mission changes from “capture” to “kill.”

Col. Powell’s team are working in collaboration with the American military. Just as American pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) is about to engage, a nine-year-old girl (Aisha Takow) enters the kill zone, setting off a dispute that reaches the highest levels of both the British and United States governments.

Other key players include Lt. General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), stationed in London and tasked with coordinating the operation; local spy on the ground Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips); Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox), Watts’ fellow drone pilot; and British government ministers (Jeremy Northam, Monica Dolan).

The movie traces the operation from its onset, with new information changing the object of the mission and unforeseen circumstances causing a complex discussion weighing the value of taking out known terrorists against the unavoidable death of innocent people. Whatever decision is made will affect international politics, propaganda value, and the saving of lives. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and the terrorists could finish their preparations and head out on their deadly mission at any moment.

Ms. Mirren brings authority to her role as Col. Powell, a woman convinced that firing into the safe house despite the inevitable threat to innocent people, represented by one young child selling bread nearby, is essential. Her superior officer, Lt. Benson, agrees, but they are hampered by the politicians and the military’s own legal advisors, who have specific guidelines for such a strike that includes the “acceptable” amount of collateral damage.

Director Gavin Hood has fashioned an absolutely riveting motion picture that doesn’t settle on easy answers. If this were a typical action picture, the drone attack would merely be one action sequence in a fast-paced shoot-‘em-up adventure. But Hood takes his time, exploring all the factors facing the decision-makers, all the while heightening the suspense. No previous film has taken the viewer into the minds and hearts of the people who run the drone program. When we attach faces and names and show that many of these folks struggle with the tough decisions they have to make, we come to appreciate the degree that simple morality plays.

Rated R, Eye in the Sky is a real-time thriller in which all voices are heard: the tough pragmatist, the weary old soldier, the liberal who believes the death of innocents can never be justified, and the politician who will have to answer tough questions from the media. The film makes a strong argument for humanity informing military affairs.

Bonus extras on the 2-disc widescreen Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include several featureless, including Morals, which features a discussion with Helen Mirren, director Gavin Hood and producer Colin Firth about the moral and ethical questions raised in the film.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.